I’ve been following Gem on Instagram (@Gemeventing) for some time and have loved keeping up with her plans and progress with her fab coloured blue eyed cob x TB, Connor. We’d been chatting away on IG at times and I loved her enthusiasm for life, Con and all things purple! I’ve always been a sucker for a coloured horse. My business is named after one of mine. Gem loves Hiho Silver jewellery as much as I do. These two things alone we had loads to chat about. I knew if I ever got to meet her and Con ‘for real’, I’d be playing a bit of a Fan Girl role!!
That opportunity arose recently and one Friday afternoon I found myself heading off to photograph them both. With my right-hand girl Alice with me, I trundled off to a quiet little lane in Somerset and we were greeted at the gate by the biggest of smiles from Gem! It makes my part in providing horse and dog lovers with images they’ll hopefully treasure that much easier when they are as excited as I am to be doing this…
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Mum Jan was on hand as we parked up and Alice and I were soon swooning over Con. Mr laid back was happily munching hay outside the stables, completely unfazed by the paparazzi that had arrived and were now coo-ing over him!
Con (or Apache Blue if you find yourself at the side of an arena) is 10 and came to Gem about 3 years ago. Sadly it was soon obvious that Con wasn’t quite right physically. A diagnosis relating to his hocks meant an operation was required. The Op duly went ahead and after time off and rehab Con was back on the road. The pair were doing unaffiliated eventing a few months before the surgeons originally thought would be possible.
He’s made of tough stuff is Con.
Con is actually Gems her first horse. She’s been riding since she was 6 and found herself riding and showing ponies for others. She had a natural flair for it too. She competed at County level on them but never actually owning any. After many years the family decided it was time to loan a horse, so they started looking which led to riding another for someone else and all of this led her eventually to Con. He wasn’t the ideal horse in some ways as her first but Gem loves a challenge in life. Not interested in push button ponies or options, she’s happiest when she’s got to work things out for herself and make them happen.
This shows in her life away from riding too. Gem is an engineer by trade. The first time I heard this I was floored. I don’t know what the typical female engineer looks like (!) but I hadn’t pictured someone like Gem. She works in the highly male dominated world of motor sports engineering having decided after a trip to Snetterton race track in Norfolk with her cousin in school holidays some years ago that she really wanted to get involved in some way.
She went on to do some work experience in this area and then finally chose it as a career path. Being a female in this environment has never bothered Gem. She’s not interested in that side of things, she just loves what she does, gets on with the lads, joins in and is a very hands on/manually skilled person. Working directly on the shop floor with her machines she’s the one that walks in through the door smelling of oil…
She also deals with dyslexia, but just kicks on with it all and has flourished in her life choices – even picking up an Apprentice of the Year title alone the way!!
In 2015 Gem lost her voice for a couple of weeks. It was random but as it came back she didn’t worry too much. Until a little while later in the year and she again woke up one morning and it had gone again and didn’t come back for a very long time.
After lost of testing and specialists they discovered the issue. The muscles in the throat that close to stop you from choking were the problem. Accidentally closing over when she tried to speak. Life was tricky and it sounds like a white board was pretty much attached to her neck wherever she went. Including work. Frantic scribbles on this board were her only real way to communicate properly.
When you are dyslexic I would imagine that brings on additional stresses if you are having to respond in a busy and noisy working environment. The voice did return after nearly 2 YEARS. Mysteriously, and almost as quickly as it disappeared, it just reappeared too. Incredibly bizarre and very frustrating I’m sure.
She kept working throughout because working pays for Con and Con is her main focus in life really. So the show always went on…
Their aims this year are for some unaffiliated eventing. The long aim is BE but first it’s about experience and confidence in all three phases together. They’ve had some successful training over the winter, with lots of frillies coming home in showjumping – both individually and as part of a team. There’s pure dressage in the diary and with combined training too. Much of their planning for the season depends on when Dad can drive the lorry for her, but it sounds like they’ve got lots of things in the pipeline at this stage of the season.
A lot of the shoot went in a bit of a blur. It was such fun and Gem’s love for her boy was really obvious. His trust in Gem is clear too. He’s not the best on the roads and sadly one of the lanes near their yard is really quite busy thanks to a local car park leading to some lovely & popular footpaths. However the pair of them get by as they listen and trust in each other. Patience is need to bring a horse back to full fitness from surgery and that patience came out as Gem positioned Con on the lanes and paths and waited for him to settle into his surroundings.
I always say there’s no point getting flustered about a fidgety horse. Or one unsure about whats going on. It’s down to us to remember that a photo shoot is a bit unusual for them. How often do they go for a walk around their fields and lanes at home with Mum on the floor rather than on board…? They don’t really, do they. Throw in a someone like me with a weird black clicking box following them around. Add some other helpers doing frankly bizarre things to keep their attention (thanks Alice) and you start to understand that horses react in different ways.
I always work with the horse always and not against them. If they are uncomfortable with a location we move on. If they fidget we send them for a walk to chill out and then come back. I forgo ‘the shot’ in order to have a happy horse. Happy horses make for happy pictures. Having patience like Gem showed Con is always really important. He enjoyed that support he got from her when he was a little unsure at times.
Got to say though, he was a pro! Knows where the camera is this one and soon nailed the idea behind our black background images!!
I had a really fabulous time with Gem, her mum Jan and of course Con. He’s an absolute delight and together they make a really strong team. He’s a total machine across country.
I wish them a fantastic 2019, whatever it brings them and hope to catch up with them both soon…
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Have a fabulous week ahead…
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